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Lecture 3

Week 3 Lecture 1 GEOG 2200 2012 Notes.docx

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GEOG 2200
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Page1Week 3 Lecture 1Connections through ConsumptionWe are all connected in a complex web of relationsas consumers as workers as citizens of states and even as capitalists through our investments in the market We all are part of the economic worldWe are all consumersWhile we operate at different scales in different ways as consumers we truly operate at the global scale and not necessarily out of choice either As I have said before read the label of the clothing that you consider buying Where is it from What about the new electronics What does the shipping box say on the outside How about the new furniture that you are considering buying Behind each such label lies a complex story that couldand often doesspan continentsWe all consume things Consumption can be defined as those processes involved in the sale purchase and use of commodities Mansvelt 20056 Therefore we are not talking about the manufacturing process per se Consumption is the end goal of production or more accurately it is the other side of the coin to the manufacturing or production process We are told that we live in the consumer society that our economy is consumer driven and it is For most people it is a central feature of contemporary society although it is often takenforgranted But while such everyday activities may seem mundane and trivial Crang 2005 would argue they are of considerable economic and cultural importanceCompanies produce goods to sell If they dont sell the products they produce these companies cease to exist In economic terms the sale of commodities is crucial in enabling firms to generate revenue and profit fuelling the process of economic growth through the circuit of capital Major corporations and brands such as CocaCola McDonalds and Nike focus increasingly on marketing and sales activities while outsourcing actual production to a range of suppliers at the global scale The spread and influence of such brands has become an important dimension of the process of globalization raising concerns about the creation of a global consumer culture erasing the distinctiveness of local cultures and placesThe advance economies of the world including Canada are described as mass consumption economiesThe consumer and hisher spending habits are seen as driving the economy The retail sector has become increasingly important as a source of employment particularly in the core economies In the US for example retail is the second largest industry in terms of paid employment accounting for 124 of all business establishments and nearly 12 of all employment Particular retailers such as a Costco or WalMart also exercise great power over other manufacturers and suppliers through their supply chains In cultural terms the consumer is often cited as the reason for producing goods and organizing services in particular ways But the implications of these changes can be serious Miller 1995 wrote that in this sense the consumer has become a kind of global dictator with the demands of affluent northern consumers in particular determining how goods are produced and services are delivered throughout the world economyConsumption culture and identityThree broad premises underpin recent interest in consumption First it is seen as central to the reproduction of social and cultural life referring to peoples everyday actions in supporting themselves and their families This includes the provision of food clothing shelter Page2socializing etc Second modern market societies are said to be characterized by a consumer culture organized around the logic of individual choice in the marketplace a feature of the postFordist postindustrial and to some postmodern world Third studying consumption enables us to better understand the importance of culture in shaping economic processes and institutions representing what Slater 2003 described as the site on which culture and economy most dramatically convergeThere are two perspectives on consumption and the consumer that you need to be aware ofFirst there is the perspective of several influential social critics including Karl Marx and Herbet Marcuse who believe that is signals the triumph of the market over deeper human qualities meanings and relations Advertising is seen as a crucial act in these writings And the consumer is often seen as a passive actor a cultural dupe that is easily manipulated and controlledBut a second view emphasizes the active role of consumers in utilizing things for their own defined ends This position can be traced back to studies of the early twentieth century than emphasized consumption and leisure practices as sources of social status and distinction Which do you think is rightMore recent studies however have moved away from this concern with social status and distinction to a focus on how consumers creatively rework the products they buy generating new meanings in the process and how products help to build identities Consumption has become an important way many people express their individuality and creativity Their physical world has become a reflection of their identitySome scholars such as Miller 1998 actually take this idea one step further writing that instead of being driven by greed and hedonism consumption is based on acts of love and devotion involving the purchase of commodities for partners children and friendsThe first link to Production Fordist to postFordist ManufacturingThis brings us to the first detour into changes in manufacturing production As I raised last week in my notes because I didnt have time to do so in the class different forms of capitalism were reflected in different forms of production systems and products These different manufacturing production systems were based upon different technologies as well as different institutional and societal systems The last century was dominated by two forms of capitalism organized capitalism and disorganized capitalism This refers to the sets of relations that existed in the capitalist society Organized capitalism was based upon Fordism while disorganized capitalism was based upon postFordism These are called regimes of accumulations in formal studies A regime of accumulation describes a particular way of organizing economic production income distribution consumption and public goods and services It is used in Regulation TheoryFordismFordism is defined as a set of industrial and broader social practices associated with the workplace innovations pioneered by Henry Ford in Detroit Michigan in the second decade of ththe 20 century see The Dictionary of Human Geography This combined the reorganization of the shopfloor production while forging a new relationship with his workers Specifically Fordism combined new labour practices that led to dramatic increases in productivity with higher wages thereby ensuring that the workers earned sufficient incomes to buy the very products they were manufacturing
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